As 2010 draws to a close we had a fantastic day on the reserve. Now that the thaw is continuing there is a lot of open water at Lin Dike and the waterfowl as started to return. The highlights were 2 goosanders, 6 goldeneyes, 7 tufted ducks, 140 canada geese, and 8 greylags. Other birds in the same area were a green woodpecker, a jay and 4 bullfinches.
A woodcock and water rail were seen at Pickup hide along with a flock of 24 lesser redpolls. A stoat was photographed at the kingfisher screen and the kingfisher its self was showing well all day which is great news.
The highlight of the day was the eight waxwings that flew into the silver birch at the back of visitor centre. Although there have been large flocks in the area we havent had many sightings on the reserve.
Lets hope 2011 continues as 2010 has finished!
The bank holiday was a busy one at the reserve with a lot of visitors coming to walk off the excesses of Christmas and see what was about. The warmer weather is certainly a change from the last few weeks with temperatures reaching a balmy 5 degrees centigrade! Despite the change in weather it is still important to feed the birds and we are still seeing a lot of activity at our feeding stations. A flock of up to 9 long tailed tits are frequent visitors to the feeding screen and they are coming in very close to us as we top up the other feeders.
Long tailed tit (copyright Graham Eaton rspb-images.com)
A great spotted woodpecker has been a regular visitor to the Visitor Centre feeders and a green woodpecker has been seen and heard a number of times along Lin Dike. The water rails are still being seen at the duck feeding platform and there have also been good sightings very close to the centre in the wildlife garden. I am beginning to think that water rails being shy and elusive birds is an urban myth!
A dark breasted barn owl was reported on bird guides on Monday morning at the west end of the reserve and it was reported later in the day at Skelton Lake. This is a very unusual sighting as although not a separate species it is a continental variation of the British barn owl. There are still plenty of redwing and fieldfare sightings over the whole reserve particularly in the trees around pickup hide and the path at Lin Dike.
We have had some great views of stoats and weasels over the last couple of days. One of our staff members had a close encounter with a weasel on Monday when it ran across the path near Pickup and then hid in the leaf litter at the side with just its face poking out as she stood a watched for a couple of minutes. This morning I saw a stoat running around underneath the visitor centre, it disappeared briefly and reappeared with a vole in its mouth before running back under the shop and out of view.
It's Christmas Eve and its not just the elves that are busy getting ready on the last day before Christmas! Here at Fairburn Ings our wardens and rangers are dashing around the reserve filling bird feeders and scattering seed for ducks, swans and even water rails. Then off to the far reaches of the reserve to deliver supper to our roaming cattle and sheep. We'll keep checking in on the wildlife and livestock throughout the Christmas period to make sure everyone's healthy and happy.
Unfortunately we can't help all our wildlife and the cold weather has brought us some casualties. We have lost several swans this winter as they struggle to find food and cope with the harsh temperatures. We're very grateful to all our visitors who have reported sightings of swans and other wildlife who are stuck in the ice or generally struggling. We have been working with Swan Rescue to look after these birds as best we can and freed 3 swans from the ice last week and rescued one canada goose.
For any of you who enjoy coming to feed our swans and ducks in the warmer months, now's the time when our visitor numbers reduce and they need much more food for energy. So if you fancy a breath of (very!) fresh air and maybe walk off a mince pie or two please pop down and throw them some seed.
On the up side we have been treated to some spectacular sightings such as hunting barn owls who have happily been seen finding food to keep them going across the reserve. We'll keep updating you of what's been about on our recent sightings.
In the Visitor Centre we're getting ready to shut down for our 2 day break. The car park and Riverbank Trail will be closed on Christmas Day to maintain its permissive footpath status but visitors are still welcome to Lin Dike and Cut Lane. The main car park will be reopened on Boxing Day at 10am and the Visitor Centre will be back open complete with the usual bird food, hot drinks, sandwiches and snacks on Monday the 27th.
From everyone here at Fairburn Ings we hope you have a wonderful Christmas filled with wildlife delights, we look forward to hearing about them soon!